China Detains Outspoken Party Ideologue Who Called for Removal of Xi
RADIO FREE ASIA
Authorities have detained a former professor at a ruling Chinese Communist Party school after he called for Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping’s replacement. Zi Su was taken away from his home in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu on April 28 after he posted an open letter online calling on Xi to step down as head of the party in favor of Hu Deping, son of late ousted premier Hu Yaobang, whose death in 1989 sparked the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. “Xi Jinping was elected general secretary… in 2012 and has served for five years,” Zi’s letter said. “His achievements… have been to punish a number of corrupt officials, but his faults have been to imitate [late supreme leader] Mao Zedong with a personality cult around him and a focus on centralization of power.”
Cuba 2018: What to Expect as Castro Rule Comes to an End
Simon Whistler, FORBES
Should all happen as expected, February 24, 2018 will be a momentous day in the lives of many Cubans. On that day, 10 years after officially taking over from his brother Fidel, President Raúl Castro has promised to step down from power, marking the first time that many on the island will have ever known a head of state without his famous last name. For many Cubans, regardless of their political loyalties, the Castro name has come to represent their country, for good or for bad. Raúl stepping down from office is therefore a hugely symbolic moment and will generate a great deal of uncertainty. This is not lost on the Cuban authorities. The all-encompassing Cuban state has been preparing for the moment since 2013. There is little doubt that the handover of power will be carefully choreographed in public, as the ruling Cuban Communist Party (PCC) seeks to demonstrate that running the country will be business as usual.
Impoverished Laos Shows Resistance to Becoming a Client State of China
Ralph Jennings, FORBES
Laos typically welcomes help from China and particularly supports growing investment from China as part of the “Belt and Road” program, a four-year-old effort to extend the giant country’s trade and infrastructure network across Asia into Europe. A bellwether 414-kilometer China-Laos railway that broke ground in December is one of the “most important” projects in the Lao government’s economic development plan through 2020, Chinese official Xinhua News Agency said in a report this week. Laos and China are both communist. They share a land border. No wonder Laos, with a GDP of just $12 billion, sometimes gets described as a client state of the world’s second-largest economy. But China is not the biggest foreign investor in Laos, by some measures, and pockets of resistance are emerging to the quick surge in Chinese projects.
North Korea is Building Mysterious Artificial Islands That Would be Perfect for Missile Launches
Jonathan Kaiman, LOS ANGELES TIMES
North Korea is building artificial islands in the Yellow Sea and topping them with what appear to be military installations, satellite images reveal. The development suggests that North Korea has taken a cue from China, which has been stoking regional tensions by building and militarizing several artificial islands in the South China Sea in recent years. The images show that North Korea has been working for at least five years on the islands near Sohae, about 70 miles northwest of Pyongyang, the capital. Sohae is known as a testing site for intercontinental ballistic missile technology. Their purpose remains unclear. North Korea could use the islands for ballistic missile launches, anti-aircraft weapons, anti-ship weapons—or even for agriculture, with no military purpose in mind.
A Taiwan-born Navy Officer Plead Guilty, But Not to Spying
Ben Finley, WASHINGTON POST
A Taiwan-born Navy officer accused of espionage struck a deal with the US government and agreed Thursday to plead guilty to several charges, but not to espionage involving China or Taiwan. Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin is pleading guilty to mishandling classified information, communicating national defense information, failing to report foreign contacts and lying about where he was going while on leave. Court documents did not reveal whom Lin was accused of spying for. But officials told The Associated Press last year that the country involved is China or Taiwan, and possibly both.
As Russia Investigation Widens, US Lawmakers Get Rare Access to Raw Intel
Jenna McLaughlin, FOREIGN POLICY
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee boarded a bus to Langley as part of their probe into Russian election meddling. Many facets of the congressional probe into Russian election meddling are unusual, but these field trips are part of yet another “first” for the intelligence panel: access to raw intelligence. “Committee members have been granted unprecedented access, similar to what the Gang of Eight has had,” a spokeswoman for Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote in an email to Foreign Policy, referring to the small bipartisan group of high-ranking lawmakers who regularly get access to sensitive materials from the intelligence community. After “significant negotiations,” the chairman and vice chairman got access to “categories and types of intelligence documents that have never been provided to Congress before”—even beyond what the Gang of Eight has received in the past.
Venezuela Attorney General Luisa Ortega Criticizes Regime She Serves
Anatoly Kurmanaev and Kejal Vyas, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Venezuela’s top prosecutor, already under pressure for criticizing the authoritarian government she serves, condemned state violence against protesters, decried the stratospheric inflation racking her country, and praised the constitution President Nicolás Maduro wants to eliminate. Attorney General Luisa Ortega’s comments to The Wall Street Journal, in a rare interview, appeared to confirm her break with the hard-line leftist regime, which expects unquestioned loyalty as it wrestles with a growing surge of public unrest. “It’s time to come to terms with ourselves,” the 59-year-old lawyer said at her office in the capital. “It’s time to hold talks and to negotiate. It means one has to yield on decisions for the good of the country.”
Venezuela Opposition Leader Lopez in “Proof of Life” Video
Following rumors that jailed Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez had been poisoned and taken to hospital, a government lawmaker showed a “proof of life” video of him in his cell. In the video, Mr. Lopez says he is well and that he does not know why he is being asked for “a proof of life.” Mr. Lopez is three years into a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014. He is held in a jail near Caracas. Rumors started spreading on social media on Wednesday that Mr. Lopez had been moved from Ramo Verde prison to a military hospital. Many based their information on a tweet by Venezuelan journalist Leopoldo Castillo.